Random drug test

As a cartoonist, I am not subject to random drug testing. From practical point of view, I would have no problem with it. The only drugs I occasionally partake in are light forms of alcohol and the odd aspirin or whatever to get through a cold. Since I became a father, time is short, I go out less and go to bed way earlier than before, so even my alcohol consumption has been reduced to an average of maybe two beers a week.

But on a moral level, I would sure hate to be told what I can and can’t consume. I totally get that, if you operate heavy machinery and/or are responsible for other people’s lives, you have to be of sound mind. But isn’t it unfair that, if you get totally wasted on booze on Friday and then get called for a random drug test on Monday, you’re okay, but if you smoke one joint on Friday and get tested on Monday, you’d lose your job?

And, continuing the discussion from last Friday, about crew rest and pilot fatigue, isn’t sleep deprivation way worse than most effects of drugs? I heard that the crew of the Dubai Air plane that crashed in Russia was said to be totally overworked and sleep deprived, and that this problem is way more common in the industry than most people would want to admit.

And what about prescription drugs? I’m sure there are books full of regulations fort those, right?

Again, I don’t even do drugs myself, and this is just my humble opinion, but I sure think that a more relaxed attitude towards recreational drug use would probably be the best for everybody. If you compare the Netherlands, who “have to” shut down prisons because of a lack of crime, and the US, whose prisons are full to the brim with (not only, but a lot) of non-violent drug offenders, it isn’t hard to see which system seems to work better.

By the way, that’s an interesting question to the Dutch among you: Are pilots allowed to consume hemp, or are the rules stricter than for regular citizens?

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12 comments on “Random drug test
  1. Halbe says:

    As far as I know, here in the Netherlands you’re at least not allowed to drive under the influence of any drugs which may impair your judgement or speed of reaction (this includes alcohol as well as cannabis or any other drug), so my guess is that this would also be the case for flying. The main problem lies in the enforcement (again, as far as I know), as while alcohol levels are relatively easily measurable through breath analysis, proving the influence of e.g. cannabis easily, cheaply, quickly and non-invasively is still quite hard.

  2. Rwill says:

    When the random drug test thing came out, I was the only employee at the shop at the time. it was like “Great, how random is this going to be?” But then it was you had to have x amount of employees before you had to drug test.

  3. Plthjnx says:

    Got tagged just yesterday, I’m now in a pool that’s a not so random monthly testing. Only thing I don’t care for is like now, I’m not flying and won’t be flying for a few more months but my allergies are in full swing and I’ve got a cold but I still have to adhere to the “approved” medications for such. OTC’s such as Benadryl are not allowed or frowned upon, take your pick.

  4. Matte says:

    I work at a large “industrial”-site where random screening for drugs and alcohol is mandated. I was out in the field taking samples from process liquids and doing instrument maintenance when my boss called me and ordered me to report to his office ‘post haste’, which I did. He then proceded to escort me to the small infermery that we have onsite. No, he would/could not tell me what was going on. In the waiting room was the entire staff of the chemistry department (all of my close collegues).

    Random screening?! My arse! (Though we did have a bit of a “reputation” onsite…)

  5. Bernd says:

    breath analysis can only be an indicator as to whether or not a proper blood test should be performed. The breath analysis result is not valid evidence in a court of law, as far as I know.

    As for flying, there is probably be a long list of prohibited drugs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if even a simple nasal decongestant spray containing xylometazoline or oxymetazoline was on it.

  6. Bernd says:


    The FlyDubai thing is far from clear. Yes , there have been “whistleblowers” who came forward to Russian TV stations and talked about fatigue, etc. But for the accident in question there is yet nothing to say either way. The only official publications is from the MAK: http://mak-iac.org/en/rassledovaniya/boeing-737-800-a6-fdn-19-03-2016

    And it is also not clear that fatigue is really worse than drugs. The thin air may exacerbate the effects of many drugs, including alcohol, and many of them have not been extensively tested for their effects in airline cockpit working environments. 😉

    On the other hand I agree that an occasional joint is probably less harmful than regular (or occasionally excessive) alcohol consumption, but still a lot lot more illegal in most countries.

  7. Baradium says:

    Bernd, you beat me to it regarding speculation. As far as breath analysis goes, they are administrable, although I believe they are occasionally successfully challenged. Law enforcement also uses subjective observations.

    Plthjnx, you may want to talk to your doc about what you can take since you aren’t going to actually be flying. There is likely something they can approve for you.

  8. Fred Scheid says:

    Baradium – I’m currently with an AME on this, in fact, when I went to my last appointment I mentioned that I was taking benadryl and he suggested that I stop taking it (see forum for more detailed info on the situation). At any rate, i’m to avoid all cough/cold medications that contain alcohol and/or anything that would impair abilities to drive, operate heavy machinery, etc – you get the gist

  9. mike says:

    I think Claritin is ok and Claritin-D even from what I remember my own AME saying in the past because it’s “an upper” – The FAA seems to frown upon anything that makes you drowsy like Benadryl. But AOPA has a list of approved meds for allergies among other things….

  10. ThisGuy says:

    Just for the record, hemp is used to make rope. Cannabis/marijuana is smoked. Yes it is basically the same plant but the name hemp is usually used for the non smokable types. And the rules for flight crews and use of any drugs is the same in the Netherlands as in any other ICAO country. Smoking pot and flying is still a strict no-go.

    It might also surprise you that the rules regarding marijuana in the Netherlands are nowadays more strict than many US states regarding possession and sale. We’ve really gone backwards

  11. Rob de Vries says:

    Flying in the Netherlands while under the influence of drugs is forbidden. This is regularly checked at airfields. Not only at the flightdeck, also in the cabin. Lots of airline personel (Dutch or foreign) have ended up in jail, while thinking they were going to fly

  12. Halbe says:

    @Bernd, according to https://www.politie.nl/themas/alcohol.html#alinea-title-hoe-verloopt-de-procedure-bij-een-blaastest, the breath analysis is a valid way of measuring the alcohol quantities. Also note that the maximum alcohol levels in dutch law are indicated in limits both per unit quantity of blood and per unit quantity of breathed-out air. It is however important to note that the breath analysis machines used for this purpose are the big things usually located at police stations, the hand-held units encountered “in the wild” are just used for pre-selection.

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